Friday, October 14, 2011
Waiting for the Magic, written by Patricia MacLachlan and with illustrations by Amy June Bates. Simon & Schuster, 2011. $17.99 ages 8 and up
"Here are the ones who know magic:
How's this for a powerful lead sentence?
"It was early on a Saturday summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away."
Well, it surely provides food for thought, doesn't it? William is our narrator and Elinor is his little sister. Papa leaves each a note that says he's sorry, and he loves them. The leaving gets an immediate reaction from Mama. She heads out to the car, kids in tow and firmly announces: "We're going to get a dog."
It seems Papa never wanted a pet. Mama has other ideas, and off they go to the shelter where they find their dog. In fact, they find four dogs and a cat! Life, as they have known it together, changes. The animals bring peace and contentment at a time when the family is in distress, and in limbo. Will Papa come back? Where has he gone? There is anger and sadness, left in the wake of Papa's leaving.
One day when he calls, her mother adds another word to Elinor's 'bad wood' list:
"Elinor and I stood there for a long time, listening to Mama's voice from the kitchen. And at the end of Mama's conversation, after she had hung up the phone with a slam, she had provided Elinor with another 'bad wood' for her bad wood list. The word was "idiot", forever number three after "stupid" and "fat."
The pets bring a magic to the family that cannot be denied. Elinor believes in it, and she can hear their pets talk. Gran can and she has a bit of an explanation for Will's not believing in the magic:
"You aren't young enough. Not old enough. Maybe not brave enough."
After the first phone call from Papa, Will thinks that summer is easier. His take is that if Papa isn't with them, he can't leave again. Heartrending, don't you think? One day Mam calls a family meeting to tell the children that she is going to have a baby. Papa doesn't know. Will wants to have a say about that. He is not sure how to tell his mama. Luckily, one of the dogs comes to his rescue and finally he knows their magic:
"And then it happened. I heard.
I don't think it will help him to be the father he can be.
I stared at Neo. Then I began to talk, almost without thinking about it."
I have to stop, or I will tell you the whole story here and now. Suffice it to say that joyful is exactly the word to use when I finish reading one of Patricia MacLachlan's books. She gives her characters such voice as she lets them tell their own stories. Here she has created a family whose love shines through the sadness, whose adopted pets become an integral part of their family, watching over them and giving guidance when it most needed.
It is a 'keeper' for me.